I must admit, I have a slight obsession with Barracuda. The Bonefish will always be the flagship species of the Bahamas but no trip to South Andros is complete to me without at least targeting a couple toothy predators. Barracuda have a weird reputation in the fly fishing world. This might be because of how easily spin fishermen can get them trolling offshore or the potentially deadly disease (ciguatera) they can be contaminated with. Allow me to address both of these points. The first is that these flats dwelling Barracuda are anything but easy to catch on the fly. They can be incredibly spooky and very difficult to convince to eat as opposed to just follow. And regarding the ciguatera, just don’t eat them. Plenty of locals will eat them and they are even considered a delicacy in some parts of the country. The rough rule of thumb is offshore/reef dwelling ‘cuda can become contaminated with the food borne illness. Most flats Barracuda are clean of the toxin. Regardless of them being edible or not, they are one of the most underrated fish to target on the flats. They can also be very difficult to feed and once you finally hook one, can be very difficult to land. That is why I wanted to share with you my personal Barracuda set up. I have fished for ‘Cuda from Christmas Island, to Ascension Bay to the Bahamas which means I have had my fair share of heartbreaks thanks to them. Like most things in fly fishing, not catching fish is a great way to learn how to get it done and where to make changes. I have a lot of confidence in this set up and on my last trip, it led to my personal best fly caught ‘Cuda.
Some parts of a ‘Cuda rig are very important while others really don’t matter all that much. Like the rod and fly line. Any rod from an 8-10 weight will be fine. Same with line, just get a floating fly line that pairs up with the rod you are using. I will then use a butt section from any leader. Again, these parts are not super important (in my opinion). It doesn’t need a bimini or anything special up top. Just a leader tapered down to something like 30 pound (Or you could just run 6 to 8 feet of straight 30 pound as well.) The fish isn’t going to break off up here and I like 30 or even 20 pound as it allows for easier knot tying. Here is when stuff gets important. ‘Cuda obviously have teeth, big ones. It can be very heartbreaking to finally hook into one just to lose it because it bit through your line so we want to attach some wire off of the leader. I used to use 30 pound wire but I have had fish bite through that so I now stick with 40 pound and (knock on wood) have yet to have one bite through that. I have no allegiance to a particular type of wire. I hear people complain about wire being hard to tie with or claim that a certain type of wire is easier to use but my response is that those people are not using the right type of knots. I agree in that some wire might be more flexible or easier to wrap but the knots I use are simple and work with all types of wire.
Off of my leader, I tie an albright knot from the mono to my 40 pound wire. The alrbight knot is easy to tie and works great with wire. A diagram of how to tie the knot can be viewed here. Just remember to use the wire for the starting loop, you want to be wrapping the mono. I want to make sure I have at least 12 inches of wire before tying on the fly. I often use even longer (up to 18 inches) as I don’t find it has any negative effects on my cast. Very important to not use under 12 inches as there is a chance the ‘Cuda could inhale your fly and you want plenty of room between his teeth and your mono! Then to attach my fly to the wire I use the Jam knot. Click the link and learn this simple knot. You will never need a different knot to attach a fly to wire. My favorite fly to target the ‘Cuda with is the Cutthroat Cuda Tube but in my opinion, presentation is far more important than fly selection so don’t overthink this step.
That is my personal Barracuda rig. Like I said, some parts aren’t that important and don’t need to differentiate from your normal bonefishing set up. The key to everything is the wire and the two different knots, the albright and the jam knot. Also remember to make sure you use enough wire to not risk having the fish’s teeth touch the mono above it. Next week we will have a follow up post going over how to feed the barracuda and the different retrievals.
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